I arrived in Mexico in mid 2005, just as Lopez Obrador’s tenure as Head of the DF government was coming to an end. But I’d spent a couple of weeks in the city a few years earlier, when his administration was just getting to grips with the job at hand. From my point of limited reference, there was a visible improvement in security and infrastructure. But as a presidential candidate in 2006 and 2012, he seemed to inspire fear and hope in equal measure. He inspired neither with me. Only my curiosity.
It strikes me that not too many foreign visitors ever think of exploring Mexico’s many mountains. Other than the handful who come here specifically to do so. I must confess, it didn’t really occur to me to try and climb one for the first few years. Probably due to the assumption that this is very much a specialist endeavor. I can pinpoint the moment I thought to look into it. We were driving to Oaxaca, and out of the window was Iztaccihuatl, looking large above the horizon. I stared at Izta a long while and wondered, ‘How hard can it be?’
Almost a full decade ago, December 19th 2007 to be precise, Steve Cotton wrote ‘starting the journey’. It was the opening post of his blog, detailing his long search for a home on the Pacific coast of Mexico. And other tales. Many, many other -excellent – tales. He finally planted Continue reading
A very happy Mexican Independence Day to all my amigos and amigas. Is it really five years since the Bicentenario? My, how time flies. I wish I were there to celebrate, but alas it is not to be. Still, I send greetings from the UK, which was, of course, the first European country to recognise Mexican independence from the Spanish. Admittedly, this probably had more to do with us wanting to antagonise the Spanish that any anti-colonial sentiment, but ce la vie.
I don’t dance. I can’t dance. I’m not really entirely sure that I understand dancing, by and large. Sure, Shakira can bust some moves, but I’m not sure that she’s really dancing. She’s teasing, the old flirt that she is. Besides, she’s not British, and that is an important point. I do know that we Brits can’t dance. There are many things we are good at, but dancing isn’t one of them. How can I really ram this point home? Well, allow me to introduce you to the world of Morris dancing. Or Victorian Ball Room dancing. Two atrocious forms of human movement that hardy groups of people try very hard to keep going into the 21st century.
There are just some things that we should let go. These should have been abolished at the same time as death by hanging, blood letting by leeches, punitive castration and other forms of unnecessary and painful activity. And then there is this, the most modern example of Brits being unable to dance. Which makes me wonder if we abolished hanging and castration too soon. Perhaps blood letting could be brought back too? By axe, rather than leeches. Where’s James Holmes when you need him? Lastly, I produce as evidence to finish the debate off, Peter Crouch. The Colombians can do this. And we get Peter Crouch. Enough said. I rest my case.
So, in a nut shell, I don’t agree with dancing. In much the same way many other people don’t agree with President Obama, or Israeli settlements. I have no idea what it’s all about but I just don’t like it. But, as with every issue of global importance, there are occasional meetings of the mind. Seeing eye to eye. An understanding. With dance, I have found some common ground.
The Mexican Folklore Ballet. Or more properly know as the Ballet Folklorico de Mexico, de Amalia Hernandez. They have just performed a run of five days at the London Coliseum, which Mrs P and I were lucky enough to be able to go and see. It was their first trip to the UK for more than twenty years, although we have both seen the performance before, at their home in the Palacio de Belles Artes in Mexico City. It’s a story as much of a dance. The story of Mexico through the ages, from the Aztecs, through Revolutionaries and Conquistadors, all accompanied with a fabulous mariachi band.
And as far as dancing goes, this is much more Riverdance than Swan Lake. It’s a two hour riot of colour, cacophony of noise and whir of movement that seems to pass in half the time. You become quite involved in the epic telling of Mexico’s history, quite literally if you’re one of the lucky souls who gets a dance with one of the pretty ladies when they take their act to the theatre aisles.
Photography was forbidden in the theatre. Although towards the end, a fair few people starting getting a few shots for posterity with their phones. I joined in and have a set of fairly poor quality snaps on Flickr. Which you can see if you click here. But for a taste of this particularly exquisite flavour of Mexico, it would be best if I left you with something a little better. A promotional video.
This post was not sponsored by Fox News. Although, having included capital punishment, terrorism, torture, sexism, anti Obama rant and the middle east in a single post about dancing, I expect an interview soon. Crap, I forgot immigration….
This is Year of Mexico here in the UK. To celebrate, there have been plenty of exhibitions and events organised. Most of which we’ve missed – they are largely London centric, and it’s a bit of an expensive trek to get up there every weekend. But we weren’t going to miss what we consider the big double header. First up, a Lucha Libre event at the Royal Albert Hall. In a couple of weeks, the Mexican Folklore Ballet company are putting in a performance.
The Royal Albert Hall is a somewhat posher venue that the Luchadores are used too. If they feared the atmosphere would also be somewhat politer than is normal, then they were in for a pleasant surprise. A packed hall featured plenty of Latinos and Latinos who provided the profanity. And a couple of Englishmen dressed as nuns provided the luchado baiting. Frankly, us Brits do comedy drag better than anyone. Finally there were some masked up Aussies behind us who provided enough politically incorrect wrestling suggestions to last a lifetime. In short, the atmosphere rocked.
Lucha Libre is great fun. It makes no pretence as to what it is. It’s theatre, comedy, light entertainment. With some gymnastics thrown in for good measure. Even those who think that it’s not going to be there cup of tea are usually pleasantly surprised. We had some pretty good seats, just four rows back. But it’s tough to photograph from a few rows back though. You can check out my efforts on Flickr though, just by clicking here…
This year will be different things to different people. And different organisations, nations and other entities. According to the UN, 2015 is the Year of Light. The Chinese are convinced that this is the year of the sheep. Or goats. One or the other. What sort of offspring do you get from a papa sheep and a mama goat? The Chinese should have picked that, whatever it is. The Russians and the North Koreans have decided that it is the year of friendship between Russia and North Korea. Hey, don’t mock. Everyone needs at least one friend.
So what about the UK? We have the best ‘Year Of’ of them all. Here in Blighty, 2015 is the Year of Mexico. Which makes me happy. In Mexico, they are having the Year of the United Kingdom. Which also makes me happy. There are events galore, and I’m pleased to say that Mrs P and I will be participating. We have our tickets booked for the Lucha Libre at the Royal Albert Hall and for the Ballet Folklorico de Mexico de Amalia Hernandez. Both events are in July, and we’re looking forward to both. Myself, more the former than the latter. If you’re there, give us a shout. I will be Mistico and she will be Blue Demon.
I have, for many years, publicised the many links between the UK and Mexico. Some of them are best left alone. Ok, so we may have syphoned off a bit of oil in the early parts of the last century. Possibly quite a lot of oil. We may also have enforced borders between Belize and Mexico that was more in our favour than Mexico’s. But still. We gave you football and pastes. And that counts for a lot, right? Although the best common bond between these great nations? Well that would be myself and Mrs P, of course. and this blog. Alas, the video below gives none of us a mention. Pft.
Happy Independence Day to all my Mexican amigos. I’m sorry I can’t be there to share it with y’all. Instead, the same as every year since 2010, I’ll post my video from the Bicentenario. And the same as every year, I’ll say ‘wow, has it really been so many years since that great day?’ So this is my most unoriginal post of the year, but it’s become my own personal annual nostalgic tradition.
Every now and then in Mexico, to my amusement, I’d get asked when the UK’s Independence day is. Perhaps next year, I’ll be able to tell them. It’s three days after yours. September the 18th. Because, if Scotland gains its independence from the UK, does England not also gain it’s independence, albeit by default?
Got a smartphone? Haven’t we all. Got a weather app? I’m sure you have. Have you got the best weather app? If you have Yahoo’s weather app, then the answer is yes. Or so I will have you believe. If not, you can get it for Apple or Android. The things I like about Yahoo’s weather app is the photography they use as the backdrop. All sourced from Flickr. You have to join the Yahoo Weather app group and submit some photos to get noticed. I did that about a year ago, and a couple of them were chosen.
But over the last few weeks, I’ve had dozens of photos of mine from Mexico added to their pool. Almost all are mountain or archaeological shots I’ve taken from across central and southern Mexico. So if you do have the app and are travelling to sites of interest in Mexico, have a look out for where the photo came from. There’s every chance it came from yours truly.
And simultaneously, it will be the Year of the UK in Mexico. It’s a plan, and everyone’s invited. It’s one of those wishy washy government level type cultural exchanges that are all jolly well and good, but fairly limited in scope beyond getting a few big wigs together for a bit of a pow-wow over a drop of tequila or pint of beer. To be fair, this is bigger and grander than most of these sorts of affairs.
Mexico is even going to be graced by a flying visit from Prince Charles. This will be his fourth trip, believe it or not. Dear old Carlos, he’s a misunderstood soul. He’s inherited so much and will continue to do so, right up to the point when he inherits the whole of the UK. But there’s a flip side to this. He’s also got his mother’s nasal drawl and his father’s sense of humour. Worse still, he’s got the family crown. Not the shiny jewelled gold one you wear. The balding one that you don’t.
One does hope that he manages to keep some of his thoughts to himself though. His last visit was included in a documentary. One probably shouldn’t refer to a family prepared dish as ‘a plate of decomposed sheep‘. And suggesting to the little girl if the Mexican postal service is ‘not very good, is it‘ probably wasn’t tactful either. Maybe she had the last laugh. Mexicans are entrepreneurs, and those envelopes were probably stuffed full of cocaine. She had discovered the world’s most secure drug distribution model. Maybe.
This did have me thinking though. Has the Queen herself ever visited Mexico. Indeed she has, it turns out. In 1975, exactly thirty years before I began my own Mexico-UK cultural exchange programme. It seems it was quite a big event over in Mexico, and it still exists on video. Good ole YouTube, eh? It was the first ever visit to Mexico by a British monarch, and it was repeated in 1981. Given the Queen’s age, I suspect there will be no more trips. But why do they insist on calling her Isabel? I mean seriously, I know plenty of ladies in Mexico called Elizabeth. It’s not an unknown name there.
Mexican relations with the UK have mostly been good. Sure, there was a little testiness when Mexico nationalised their oil industry. There was the time that a few British warships turned up in Veracruz to collect some unpaid debts. There was also a small argument over who got to govern British Honduras, aka Belize. Top Gear appears to have caused some friction too, in more recent years.
But we were the first of Europe’s powers to recognise Mexico’s Independence. We also supported them in the Pastry War. To be fair, this was probably done more out of spite to Spain and France rather than any real goodwill toward Mexico. But still, you take what you can get. In return, Mexico supported the UK, albeit secretly, during the Falklands War. Again, probably out of spite towards Argentina. All is fair in love and war. Enjoy the video.
Once upon a time, back in very early 2003, I took a look at Mexico. I knew little about the country. Desert, sombreros, tequila, two World Cups and a crime wave. I was looking for a TEFL course, and there was one in Guadalajara that was cheap. So I took a look at Mexico. There was, of course, an awful lot more to the country than I knew of. That’s not my fault. Mexico wasn’t (and Cancun apart, still isn’t) on the British radar.
One thing in particular caught my attention. A factoid, stating that Mexico was one of a small number of countries that contain a majority of the world’s flora and fauna. What the hell – in a desert?! It turns out that there’s plenty of jungle about too. I was intrigued. I carried on looking. The rest, as they say, is history.
The BBC had a fascinating documentary a couple of nights ago, all about one of the heroes who is trying to save Mexico’s incredible biodiversity. Specifically, bats. And by default, also tequila. It was a really enjoyable and informative programme. Mrs P was once one of those with a negative view of bats. Not any more. Rodrigo Medellin is a modern day, real life superhero. Truly the Bat Man of Mexico.
The show is on BBC iPlayer for the next five days at the time of writing. Click the link in the paragraph above. If you life outside the UK, you will probably need to know how to work a proxy server. If not, then watch this completely unrelated documentary on the most insane animal on this planet, the Honey Badger. I’d like one as a pet. Mrs P wouldn’t. Nor would my neighbours. Nor any other animal within a 25 mile radius.
I still miss you. Mucho. One day I will return, insha’allah. There are still a few museums in DF I need to knock off my list.
Isn’t YouTube one of the most wonderful inventions ever? It’s an archive that seems to know no bounds. Whatever you want to watch, no matter how old it is, you can find it on YouTube. It’s not even all illegal. Though a fair share of it does have pretty dubious looking copyright issues. What I like is how legitimate companies have embraced YouTube as an archiver though. One of the latest examples being British Pathe, who have dumped everything they’ve got on Google’s servers.
But perhaps history viewed through British eyes isn’t your thing. There’s a Mexican contigent who visit me in my corner of the web. And I have something for you, if you haven’t found it already. The excellent Canal Once has a series, La Ciudad de Mexico en el tiempo. Look back at one of the greatest city’s on the planet as it evolved, revolted, devolved and turned into the wonderfully ghastly mess it is today.
This series is not viewed through British eyes. Although one can’t help but feel that it would have been nice if it had been filmed through a British lens with a British camera crew. The Pathe guys, perhaps…
Let’s jump to the present. There are a few television presenters I watch out for, not wanting to miss a show they make. Simon Reeve is one. Anthony Bourdain is another. The later is an American chef, who like to tour the world. His most recent show took him to Mexico City and on to Oaxaca. It was a good show. But I couldn’t help but feel that there was an odd balance in the story between decapitated bodies and fabulous Mexico cooking.
It would have been nice to see some of the more positive non culinary aspects of Mexico make the final cut. Life in DF is more than ‘shoot a policeman, have a taco. Behead a narco, have a taco. Hang an informer from a bridge, have a taco’. But the over riding theme of corruption that runs through the show, encompassing every part of Mexican life, is a true and sad fact that holds the city and nation back. Badly. Many believe the War on Drugs to be a failure. It’s clearly been a raging success. You just, perhaps, didn’t fully understand what the desired outcome was. Bourdain will also introduce you to the poor chef/restaurateur that fell victim to the daughter of a government official recently.
Fellow blogger Señor Calypso took the test and posted his result a few weeks ago. I bookmarked it, but then forgot about it. Till this morning. I wasn’t going to post my result, until I saw my result. It was worth boasting about after all. Although I won’t lie – a few of my answers were either educated guesses, or down to my being able to rule out one or two of the options to give myself a 50/50 chance.
You can do the test by clicking here. Has anyone beaten/ will anyone beat my score? I got just one wrong. And kicked myself for it. It’s not that I knew the correct answer. It’s just that my instinct told me I should have clicked on….well, I won’t post a spoiler here. My wrong ‘un is in the comments.
My latest entry to Guardian Witness. Assignment Readers Travel Photos: Faces.
To survive in Mexico City you have to be able to offer something. Mexico is a country full of music, the air filled with competing mixtures of mariachi bands, salsa, 60s British pop music, soulful ballads and raucous rock bands. On street corners you’ll often find the poorest of the city trying to earn a few pesos for dinner by blowing into a trumpet or plucking the strings of a guitar or violin. This gentleman stood all day in a corner of the Centro Historico, with a cloth at his feet to gather loose change. He played sorrowful solos on his violin that captured the mood of his glassy expression. I added some pesos to the cloth.
I chose the Mexican, because it’s one of the best portraits I’ve ever produced. Easy decision really. But there were other candidates. Maybe you’d have picked one of those as the entry instead. Maybe that might have won me the prize. We’ll never know…